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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 12:09:28 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1002 (Gnus v5.10.2) XEmacs/21.5 (celeriac, linux)

>>>>> "Tom" == Tom Lord <address@hidden> writes:

    Tom> Ok, then.  I'll turn it around (still in debugger mode -- one
    Tom> step at a time).

I like this metaphor!

    Tom> Part of what offends me about the the BK license is very
    Tom> general: that it is a _contractual_offer_, and specifically
    Tom> an offer that asks users to give up their software freedoms

(gdb) step

They're not giving up "their software freedoms" in the sense that we
usually think of freedom, when we're talking about fundamental rights.
They're giving up the right to do certain things with a certain
program, certain things that they could not do anyway until they
acquire the program.  When you accept Holmes's stricture that you may
not scream "Fire!" in a crowded theater, have you given up your
freedom of speech?  Of course not!  When you insist that it is right
to prohibit proprietary licenses, do you mean to strip me of my right
of contract?  Of course not!---you simply intend to restrict it in a
way you think is socially desirable.

And that's a key concept.  Yes, a proprietary license restricts one's
freedom in the sense of "freedom of movement".  But this is in no way
the kind of loss of freedom that is meant by words like "domination"
and "subjugation" or even "employment contract."

The fact that the practice is widespread doesn't change things
qualitatively.  As a matter of convenience, when my colleagues first
started sending me Word attachments, I used Word on a PC in the
University's lab as a doc2txt processor.  I obeyed the strictures of
the license.  Did this cost me my freedom?  No.  After a short while I
figured out how to do the vast majority of doc2txt processing without
a Word-compatible program, let alone Windows, etc.  What power does
Word have over me?  How am I "unfree", except in the extremely
restricted and massively uninteresting domain of the text of the Word
program itself?

Now, although I disagree with the position that it is a fundamental
freedom, you could argue that the right to copy any physical object
you can get your hands on is a fundamental freedom.  Then the
Constitutional creation of copyright _is_ a loss of that fundamental

But, neither rms nor you is willing to go that far.  rms is the
principal advocate of the GNU FDL and you are a user of the FDL
provisions providing for invariant sections and cover texts.  rms
won't even go so far as to suggest abolishing copyright for
entertainment works, and I note that you've gone to an excellent movie
recently but didn't complain that they wouldn't let you bring in a
video camera so you could see it again at a price you could afford.

So where's this "fundamental software freedom" that is being lost?  As
far as I can tell, it's a matter of "what's yours is ours, what's mine
is mine, but I'll share most of the time", rationalized by the
usefulness of software in production and the non-rivalry of software
in use.  But everything is useful in production if you think of
copying as production, and all intellectual assets are non-rival in use.

So we come down to "Tom is a nice guy who wants to force everyone to
be nice in the same way that he is."

At this point rms turns to mysticism, and says "it is incorrect to
analyze software in that way; you need to meditate harder so that you
will see the issues correctly."  (I don't mean to make fun of him;
meditating on an issue until your head gets untwisted is a valid path
to knowledge.)

    Tom> in exchange for the legal right to use the program.  Let's
    Tom> call that issue Question A: "Are Proprietary Software
    Tom> Licenses Outrageous"?

    Tom> So are you with me so far?  Will justifying my answer to
    Tom> Questions A and B answer your personal and professional
    Tom> interest?  Shall we start with Question A?

Yes; it would be a good start; no, let's start with Question 0: "what
do we mean by `giving up software freedom'?"

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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